President Barack Obama has tapped Nashville as one of 21 partner cities for TechHire, a new nationwide initiative that seeks to address our country's need for more tech talent.
TechHire is a $100 million program that seeks to create more workers with in-demand skills such as software development, cybersecurity and technology engineering. Nationally, there are more than 500,000 job openings in tech-related fields. The average salary for a job that requires IT skills is 50 percent higher than average private-sector jobs, according to U.S. government data.
In Middle Tennessee, there were more than 1,300 unfilled tech positions as of 2014, up from 872 in 2013. At the Chamber, we've been focused on this high regional demand for tech skills as a key component of our overall workforce strategies for the past several years. In 2013, we launched WorkIT Nashville, a regional initiative that seeks to attract more IT employees to Middle Tennessee through a collaborative marketing campaign and job board. We also closely partner with the Nashville Technology Council, which will oversee the TechHire initiative locally, as well as both K-12 and higher education providers.
Middle Tennessee's tech and entrepreneurial landscape has grown exponentially in the past five years, but we can't expect to build on that momentum without a strategy to increase the available pool of workers with valuable IT skills. TechHire will include efforts to create more homegrown tech talent by improving educational offerings at local schools, as well as making more opportunities available to adults who might decide to change careers. We can inspire more students currently enrolled in school to choose technology as a career path by offering software programming in the curriculum as early as middle school. Local programs such as Nashville Software School can help adult students fast-track their education and prepare for a programming career in as little as six months.
We are fortunate to have the Nashville Technology Council leading Nashville's TechHire effort, in conjunction with their recently announced LEAP grant, to create a regional, collaborative partnership that is committed to driving the economic success of Middle Tennessee through growing our skilled technology workforce. The Nashville Area Chamber originally formed the Technology Council in 1999 to help the Nashville region's tech community succeed. We've worked closely with Technology Council staff and volunteers for many years in developing strategies aimed at matching the skill level of Nashville’s workforce to the needs of the region’s technology employers. The Chamber fully supports the Technology Council’s leadership on TechHire, as well as its efforts to grow the economy by attracting and developing tech talent.